Penn State Finally on it’s Way to a More Open Culture

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Penn State's Iconic Old Main without The Elm Tree on the Right
"Old Main", Courtesy Penn State Live

Friday, former Penn State football Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of 48 heinous charges (MSNBC report) . As a Penn State Alumni, I’ve been critical of both the late, (though still great) Joe Paterno, the Board of Trustees and the University in general, regarding their handling of related matters.

Today I have better news to share. Following the judgments against Sandusky, Penn State responded quickly and appropriately to stakeholders with a clear, candid yet concise message. You can see the President’s full letter here.

Sandusky’s verdict was announced Friday. That same day, Penn State released a message from President Rodney Erickson that summarized the University’s sentiments and plans. The message addressed key points, including:

Timeliness:

Unlike the Trustee’s report regarding their decision to relieve Jo Paterno, President Erickson’s letter was very quick – coming out the same day as the verdict.

Concise:

Although sensitive and candid, the letter was written to the point. It did not contain legal fluff or unnecessary comments.

Respect for the pain and courage of those involved:

“…we have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly. No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky…”

Commitment to helping where they can:

“The University has already established a confidential counseling process for victims…and that process remains open.”

Commitment to support of a better future:

“While we cannot change what happened, we can and do accept the responsibility to take action on the societal issue of child sexual abuse…”

Stating specific actions to come:

“…the University plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the University…”

Penn State Police, Athletics and Administrative leaders reflected failures in the incidents ultimately leading to Sandusky’s judgments. However, the University’s method of communication and more open culture now shows clear signs of improvement. I pray you and your own organization must never address heinous crimes like these, but you may want to look to this communication examples if you should.

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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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